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Food Worth the Drive
Queen of Sheba is decorated with items from owner Mimi Younis’ native Ethiopia. The restaurant is named for the ruler of an ancient kingdom thought to encompass modern-day Ethiopia.
Photo by JOHN JERNIGAN
Travel through Oklahoma, and you’ll hear about the restaurant heavy hitters: Cattlemen’s, Eskimo Joe’s, Eischen’s, Pete’s Place. After surveying Facebook, Urbanspoon, and Yelp for less familiar but equally excellent fare, we hit the road to uncover Oklahoma eateries that are anything but minor leaguers.
#5: Out of Africa
By Karlie Tipton
Published May/June 2014
Mimi Younis traveled 8,241 miles to bring a taste of Africa to Oklahoma City. This native of Ethiopia has lived in the United States for more than thirty years, and her restaurant, Queen of Sheba, is steeped in the food ways of her native land.
“Our recipes, spices, food preparation, and cooking methods are completely different than what people in the United States are used to,” Younis says.
To begin with, customers will never see salt shakers on Queen of Sheba’s tables.
“We cook our lamb, chicken, beef, lentils, onions, and everything else for eighteen to twenty-four hours,” Younis says. “That gives the dishes time to absorb all the delicious flavors and aromas unique to Ethiopian cuisine.”
One of those distinct tastes is berbere. This blend of chilies, garlic, ginger, basil, and at least half a dozen other spices adds a level of heat similar to paprika and brings a complexity to Younis’ cuisine. Although the meats served at Queen of Sheba are tender enough to eat without a knife—Ethiopian cuisine is eaten by sopping up bites with a spongy bread called injera—many customers are drawn to the vegetarian options.
The vegetarian platter, served on crepe-like injera bread, is one of many healthy options at Queen of Sheba in Oklahoma City.
Photo by JOHN JERNIGAN
Vegetarian sambusas—fried pastries stuffed with spicy lentils, onions, and herbs—are a popular starter. The vegetarian platter, with generous portions of spicy lentils, yellow chickpeas, string beans, collard greens, rice, and salad, leaves diners more than satisfied.
Since Queen of Sheba opened in 2005, it has served thousands of customers from around the world and surprised more than a few.
“We have some of the best-rated Ethiopian food in the country,” Younis says of the restaurant’s Urbanspoon feedback. “People ask, ‘Why Oklahoma?’ and we say, ‘Why not Oklahoma?’”
When & Where: Tuesday through Saturday, 4 to 10 p.m. 2308 North MacArthur Boulevard, (405) 606-8616 or queenofshebaokc.com.
Travel Stop: Bethany’s Main Street, on Northwest Thirty-Ninth Expressway between MacArthur Boulevard and Rockwell Avenue. cityofbethany.org.
Q: Most famous diner? A: “The actor Danny Glover came in once after a fundraiser.”